Roadrunner seasons: Fall

This is the second installment about Roadrunners in the desert west.  The season this time is fall

Roadrunner atop the donkeys’ cement block shed, hollering his war cry.  Quick sketch by Emily A. Lee

In our early years in unincorporated county south of Albuquerque one roadrunner frequently enjoyed a sunbath atop the shed in the corner of the weedy paddock.  Lizards, horned toads, garter snakes and grasshoppers abounded below in the days before our growing long eared herd finished chewing off the weeds.  The view was clear and the flat roof offered shade, thanks to a vigorous young Siberian elm.

One day the bird sought the roof after his morning round of hunting, packed full of grasshoppers and Iams for Less Active Dogs, the latter from our patio.  Skilled stalker, he’d been indulging in a favorite activity, shadowing neighborhood dogs.  Pace for pace he pursued them, freezing inches from a waving tail if the owner paused, gliding when he ambled, matching motions as perfectly as a distorted shadow.  Dogs unfailingly conducted business with no suspicion of what brought up the rear.

The bird’s performance could very well be the reason why cops and detectives “tail” someone.  Except they’d have to follow superlatively invisible to match the skill of Roadrunner.

Now Roadrunner fluffed raggedy feathers, bared a dark patch on his back and dozed.

Jasper, the donkey, had recently joined our family.  Black on top, white on belly and nose, hot in desert sun, he paused for a snack at his hay tub in front of the shed .  I left yard chores to scratch his neck and ears as he munched.  And then…

Above us the bird opened white-gold eyes to pinpoint the source of crunching.  A cautious step brought him to the edge of the roof, where abruptly he let out a sharp, rattling “ZZZZTTTT” — much like a power screwdriver.

Jasper in 1995, about the time of this event 

Jasper levitated, ears whirling.  Whamming backwards, I hit the shed.  Four hooves landed, aimed precisely 180 degrees away from the hay tub as donkey streaked across the field, volleys of heehaws expressing his state of mind.  Moments later the bird raced from the roof, hot on the trail of lizards.   No glee for him — this was all in a day’s work.

There was I pressed against the sun-warmed concrete block shed with the echoes, alone.

Weeks passed, bringing the area a late fall cold spell.  One windy day the roadrunner took another nap in the sun, this time on the good warm ground.  He fluffed pointy feathers and veiled his bright, white eyes.

Jasper noisily shook his ears as he edged along fences, nibbling weeds.  By now these were his fences.  He knew the way around inch by inch, including the dried remains of every bindweed that wove its way through the wires in summer.  Hooves silent in the loose soil, he munched ever closer to the dozing bird until he stood just behind, his shadow angled away in the honey glow of the sun’s late afternoon rays.  Up went his head.  With a mincing step forward the donkey set a hoof gently down on the roadrunner’s back.

Tailfeathers from … guess!

Feathers flying in all directions, the startled bird took his turn shooting across the field.


After that a truce took effect:  that particular roadrunner did his ground sunbathing elsewhere and he never hollered from the shed roof again, either.


And here with the musical thought for this post is the remarkable Silvio Rodriguez of Cuba.  The music of his long career as a folk singer and guitar master never fails to inspire creative visions.  This song could be designed for Roadrunners — as it is called I Dream of Snakes.  Sueño con Serpientes.

Sueño is a metaphor about ridding oneself of nasty things only to find them coming back bigger than ever.










When the dreaded thing interrupts

Thursday was a fine Red Flag Warning day as I set out for the market in my upscale Permobil C-300 wheelchair.  Humidity 6%, wind increasing towards a steady 25 mph, sun flickering in and out of high, thin clouds.

Permobil C-300
Similar to my wheelchair, other than that mine has a silver shroud rather than blue

How was I to know that the expedition was about to bring me harshly to something I have dreaded about traveling by wheelchair?

As I rolled towards the market my meditative mind was clear, thoughts skimming along, at times just open spaces with no thought passing through.  On automatic pilot.

I was stopped briefly when the words, “What if today is the day when the wheelchair quits in the middle of the road?”

Why entertain such ideas? … I got the shopping done, chatted cheerfully about my upcoming move and other things with a few people in the store, and set off for home — at times holding the string on my wide brimmed hat in my teeth as the wind scoured my face.

Hanging onto two heavy bags of groceries I flew across the smooth parking lot behind the library, then as I bumped slightly onto the crumbling surface of my street there was a very, very slight “tick” sound from beneath the chair.  Hard to detect with the wind and traffic, yet that little sound caused my belly muscles to clench up with dread.

It was not a right sound.  Rather like entering an empty room and finding your hair stands on end as you take in that there is a steady ticking coming from beneath a sofa.  And you know something about bombs.

Yeah, I have a touch of PTSD in me.

A few yards down the road the chair just stopped.  Me in the middle of the road, which is the smoothest part in the alligatored and potholed surface.  It’s not a high traffic street, but there was something heading towards me and another something coming up from behind.  So there I sat, feeling this and that wire, turning the motors off, on, running diagnostics, checking connections as best I could…  Nothing.

A big red SUV passed me from behind…  “Thank goodness there was clearance enough for that!” thought I.

The SUV plowed along…  Slowed…  Backed up.  Out climbed a small, young, sturdy Latina with a look of determination.  With the the merest exchange of words she began taking the back of the chair apart to reach some switches, and ran more diagnostics than I had access to while sitting there.

“It’s this, “ she said, tapping the joystick.  The nice new joystick that Michael from HME installed for me just about three weeks ago.

My neighbor, David, came by.  He asked if he could get me home.

“Oh, no,” said my new Latina friend.  “We’ve got this.”  Off went David.

“Uh….”  said I, “I didn’t bring my crutches so without them I can’t even stand up.”  She continued smiling as I observed that the chair weighs 330 pounds, and with me in it the total weight is over 460.  Plus something for the groceries I was clutching.

About then the cutest curly haired girl of four years slid out the high window of the red SUV, ran up to say hi to me.  Her mom scooped her up and dropped her back in through the same window.

Out popped a good looking man, Jacob, to see what he should be doing.

A conference between the couple determined that Suzie would push me down two blocks of poor paved road, and home.

Suzie had taken charge.  The day had not been allowed to go sour!

And she did it, too.  I was thoroughly awed and amazed at the goodness, the strength of this woman who appeared without needing explanations from nowhere just as and where she was needed.

When we got to my house Jacob took her place to shove me up the incline into my yard, then the ramp at the front door.

Elf and Opus were having fits behind the front door, having deduced that all was not well with the human.  Not barking, but I heard their claws at a window, near the front door.  Jacob and Suzie made sure the free spirited Opus did not get out the door and off for another of his races for blocks and blocks around the neighborhood.

When in the deepest of life’s doodoo it is humbling and astounding to me that people like Suzie and Jacob just show up.  There was no reason, not even enough time, for me to succumb to the horror of my plight there in the street before they drove up.

So I got out of the broken power chair and into my small manual chair while Suzie put away all my groceries, the little girl romped around, and Jacob chatted with me.

I called HME, the folks who service the Permobil, as Suzie continued to fiddle with the Permobil.  I put Kevin, the service guy, on speaker, and he suggested a few more things to Suzie.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.

About then I was struck by the desperation of my position.  Without the power chair there is very, very little that I can do of my normal activities.  Especially — being scheduled to move in about two weeks — packing, sorting, selling things that are in places I can’t get to without the power chair.

It normally takes a few weeks for HME to be able to get a tech down here for moderately urgent repairs.   I’m beyond the comfort range for travel south from Albuquerque.  I pleaded shamelessly and almost — but not quite — tearfully with Kevin, who assured me that though service calls were booked solid well into next week, he’d see what he could do.

When I hung up Suzie said, “He be here today.”  Kevin hadn’t said that, but she flat out said it would be.

And, amazingly, that is exactly what happened.  And Kevin had been so affected by what I had said to him that he called me back later to tell me, also with some emotion, how hard it is to have to hold back so much of the time, due to certain company and Medicare restrictions.  “But today, you see, we did move everything around, so Michael could get down there, for you.”

Suzie and family left, being sure that I was okay for the time being.  I had her phone number, and the knowledge that this amazing woman who had come to my rescue had long been a care giver for people with serious medical conditions.  That’s where she’d learned to troubleshoot power wheelchairs, put people’s groceries neatly away, hold panic at bay with her “let’s do it” attitude and speak as a peer with Kevin.

I blessed her and her family and sent them on their way.  Within twenty minutes there was Michael on the phone, the wheelchair tech who mostly comes here.  Seems he was rounding up a loaner wheelchair and would be along in an hour or so.

So I made tea and before I could finish it, there was Michael.  He pushed my trash cart back from the curb to where he knew it belongs — the trash truck had come earlier.  I had idly been wondering how I would ever get the big cart out of the middle of the driveway without my power chair.

Never before, it felt, had I been so deeply glad to see this tall Native man with his hefty bag of tools and wry humor.

“Oh, Michael, I love you,”  I gushed.

Shooting me a look, he suggested we figure out the extent of the problems before getting carried away.

So while he took the thing to pieces — calling Permobil’s tech center in Tennessee twice in the process — we had our usual conversations about what’s most important in a life, how the little, loved and comfortable things are what we cherish around us — what more wealth could there be than that?  Then the state of atheism and the Jesus road, Native ceremonies in hidden canyon places, the mother that Michael lovingly takes care of and so on.  He’s an intelligent, perceptive person, is Michael.  Has a degree in computer science, could move up in the company he works for or go elsewhere, but prefers to be free in his own spaces.

It was about 4 p.m. as Michael climbed back into HME’s big truck.  Considering that my ordeal began around noon, four hours in the company of strangers, Suzie, Jacob and charming little daughter, and then familiar Michael felt like a precious reassurance from powers beyond me that there is nothing to fear, after all, when I am at last confronted with the thing that, for years, had been a dreaded possibility.

The problem:  Deep in the recesses of cables, plugs and switches beneath the chair a small circuit board had shaken loose within a loosely lidded box called the Main Switch. This was due to the many bumps over which I have travelled in the three years I’ve had this chair.  Luckily I had saved a small piece of equipment that hadn’t been installed into the chair, and which gave Michael the ability to run more diagnostics.  With complex equipment it’s a good idea to be a packrat of spare parts.

And I remembered the Baha’i lines inscribed on a necklace I often wear:  “Armed with the power of Thy name, nothing can ever hurt me, and with Thy love in my heart all the world’s afflictions can in no wise alarm me.”

I wish I would remember such thoughts when I am in the middle of an upheaval rather than when it’s over — but, I’m on a road here, anyhow.

And here’s a link to the Song of the Caged Bird, by the up and coming young violinist, Lindsey Stirling.  It expresses very well the way it feels to be me, kind of locked into impossible circumstances but determined to move along anyway.  It was inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, “I know why the caged bird sings”.

The way I study the sky and birds in the back yard.  😉 … This isn’t my chair or my backyard, though.  Stock web image.

My MOE to Einstein’s TOE

This afternoon’s outdoor MOE session involved the passage of delicate, transient things in life, reasons for their indestructibility  despite their fragility — all accompanied by a duet performed by two dogs in a nearby yard.

If I had to guess I would suspect that neither dog had been “fixed”, that one was a male (who whimpered and whined to the chorus of yelps) while the other (the yelping singer) was the female.  Each chained in separate corners of the yard, of course.

Too few people fix their canine companions around here for reasons that sound almost religious when spelled out regarding the males.  “It’s what’s really HIM, how could I take that away?”  “It completes his nature.”

The reasons given about not spaying females are less lofty:  “Those vets, they charge too much!”

Mouring Cloak with rays
Mourning Cloak butterfly feeds under strong sun this afternoon, on plum blossoms as they drop petals like snow

So what is MOE, you might ask.  First cousin to TOE.  The Theory of Everything.  Musings On Everything..

Watching a glorious Mourning Cloak butterfly twirling, flitting, floating, twirling some more upon tiny plum flowers, brought back something I read last night which resonated with my own thoughts in the past — how we are stardust, ourselves and our surroundings for infinite light years. But it’s always the same particles making up the stardust, eternally.

Quantum entanglement means that the tiniest possible bits of us, particles, are both here, twinned, in us and millions of light years away in something else, a system in which what happens to one particle also happens to the other.  Simultaneously.


…[A] single primordial atom has had its great journeys through every stage of life, and in every stage it was endowed with a special and particular virtue or characteristic.  ….  All things are involved in all things.  … In every form of these infinite electrons [a phenomenon] has had its characteristics of perfection. …  Hence do you have the conservation of energy and the infinity of phenomena, the indestructibility of phenomena, changeless and immutable, because life cannot suffer annihilation but only change.

The apparent annihilation is this:  that the form, the outward image, goes through all these changes and transformations … [T]he elements, the indivisible elements which have gone into the composition of the flower are eternal and changeless.  ~Baha’i

This was written in the days of theory of quantum mechanics, when Max Planck and Albert Einstein both had wicked, wild heads of hair.

So the plum blossom petals raining down upon the good earth of New Mexico this

fallen plum petals.jpg
Petals drifting down

afternoon may be about to disappear, only to release their atoms and particles to morph into something else.  In time.

I wonder what is going on with any entangled particles of my plum blossoms with their “partners” in very distant galaxies?

On Earth, I loved every moment this large, richly colored butterfly spent a couple of feet from me and my iPhone camera, mining nectar from plum blossoms.


Mourning Cloak flies
Flying Mourning Cloak

Fluttery Buttery

Achemon moth emerged

Before going outside this very warm, brilliantly blue afternoon I looked at photos of an Achemon month.  The creature emerged from its chrysalis near some wooden dowels in the courtyard of my previous home.  Creeping  up the dowels, it clung for several hours, pumping up its wings.  Eventually they measured nearly four inches across.

PoincianaIt, and its descendants, feasted on poinciana flowers close to the courtyard.  This happened in July, 2008.

Nothing like this velvety moth has appeared at my home of the past six years. Feeling a bit nostalgic for the many lovely flowers, birds and butterflies — along with the occasional fascinating insect — at my South Valley place, I raked dead leaves out of equally brown grass for a while, then put my feet up to take stock of plum blossoms swelling up nearby, the glossy condition of needles on a backyard ponderosa which is fighting off a bark beetle infestation.  With the help of way more watering than I ever thought I’d be giving a large tree in the desert.

Longhorn beetle on globe mallow

Meditating a while, I opened my eyes and there was a small miracle, dancing in and out of tree limbs high above.  Too tiny to identify from my distance, they were brilliant hairstreak-sized butterflies, come to show off spring’s orange amidst the infinite shades of desert brown.  For about five seconds, weaving in and out of the light amongst the great trees.

Twin wee orange shapes

wings fluttery, buttery 

twinkling with the sun

While there was no time for a photo, here is a picture of Elf the Corgi a couple of summers ago, nosing agastache flowers where she Just Knew There Was A Butterfly.  Somewhere.

Elf watches butterfly

All but spirit

birdwatcher Opus

All but spirit 

Doves fly high in clouds

like fond hopes from us … and dogs

living in stardust

cloud swoop

…Two collared doves sat in the tree Opus the Birdwatcher scrutinizes in the top photo.  You can see one above the roof (right side of branch), while the other was behind a thick branch, with only its tail visible.  A third dove sat nearby, calling loud invitations.  Yet another was high above, touching clouds…  Both photos were taken at the same time.

Light blesses the trees in their seasons

Seasons may go round and round forever as trees remain themselves, handling natural and man-made conditions as they come.  Sliding in and out of sunshine and snow times, holding their branches up for birds and saws alike, to nourish with fruit, nuts or sap, shelter, offer fuel and building material.

Growing up where there were plenty of woodlands, feeling calmed by trees from my earliest days on the planet, I’ve gotten a sense of community amongst the trees in a given area.  There is the feeling that they come to depend upon one another in their positions, roots anchored into the soil, rock, supported by massive soil biomes unique to their place and time.  Trees share so much more than we can see in our casual dealings with them.

Still or wind rubbed trees may appear to be non-sentient, yet if you close down your thoughts as you study them you may just detect inclinations on the part of their branches towards one another.

As this ponderosa pine and plum tree do, growing together close enough to easily mingle their branches, far enough apart to give space to the vital root systems.

branches of the seasons
Ever ready to offer their services to passing birds, insects, creatures and humans:  The evergreen looks about the same in August as in February, while the bare plum branches are beginning to put out thousands of flower buds.  Within weeks a myriad butterflies and bees will be feeding in those branches, while new tribes of birds perch in the thicker pine branches.

There is a German forester who’s been in the news recently — Peter Wohlleben — for his long study of trees, detailed in his book The Secret Life of Trees:  What They Feel How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World.

I mean to read it soon.  Meanwhile I keep an eye on the five trees in my back yard, alongside their larger neighbors in other yards.

light on desert willow
The desert willow, smaller than its yard mates, has been growing mightily the past two years, wetter than usual for this high desert country.  Clinging as it was to some of last year’s leaves yesterday, it seemed full of magic.  A fountain of light flowed into it from a brilliant sun, a soft white feather fluttered in its branches, a reminder of birds that perch there in the warmer months.  The camera lens provided the ring of green light — rather prescient, thought I.  Green leaves will pop out soon…

“Were one to observe with an eye that discovereth the realities of all things, it would become clear that the greatest relationship that bindeth the world of being together lieth in the range of created things themselves, and that co-operation, mutual aid and reciprocity are essential characteristics in the unified body of the world of being, inasmuch as all created things are closely related together and each is influenced by the other or deriveth benefit therefrom, either directly or indirectly.” ~’Abdu’l-Baha

Seek and find… The Blessing Way

clouds with dove
Clouds with dove


Whenever I go through the door looking for poop

That’s what I find — the dogs have provided plenty.


Should I pass through seeking a rainbow

I may not find one, but I will enjoy the search,


finding little things not otherwise seen, like leaf buds swelling.

Through today’s door I was not looking for spring or its winds,


but they were waiting outside, howling and hissing through the big trees,

while collared doves rowed along beneath wavy clouds.


This wind pushed me through a different door,

the door of musing over how a life is well lived.


Words shared by a Diné (Navajo) elder, Wayne Wilson,

began to etch out a map, clear over clouds in the mind.


Teachings of the Blessing Way

Ha ahwiinit’i – Be generous and kind
K’ ezhnidzin –
Acknowledge and respect kinship and clanship
Hane’ zhdindzin –
Seek traditional knowledge and tradition
Hwil’ ili –
Respect values
Ada hozhdilzin –
Respect the sacred nature of the self
Hazaad baa ahojilya –
Having reverence and care of speech
Hazho’ o ajists’ aa’ –
Being a careful listener
Aheeh jinizin –
Being appreciative and thankful
Ha hozho –
Showing positive feelings towards others
Dloh hodichi ya’ atehigii hazho’ o bee yajlti –
Express appropriate and proper sense of humor
Adil jidli – Maintain a strong reverence of the self
Ha naanish ajil’ iinii bizhneedli –
Maintain enthusiasm and motivation for one’s work
Ha naanish baa haa jinizin –
Have respect and care for one’s work
Hanitsekees k’ ezdongo ajosin –
Having a balanced perspective and mind

Flowers yet to come, with spring